Concordia schools issue new mask mandate

Published 12:36 pm Thursday, December 30, 2021

VIDALIA — The Concordia Parish School Board on Wednesday voted to issue a three-week mask mandate for students commencing when they return to school from winter break.

A special called meeting to reinstate the mask mandate was called after Concordia Parish saw an increase in COVID-19 cases “at an alarming speed,” school superintendent Toyua Watson said.

“After Thanksgiving, there was an increase in Concordia Parish of 17.4%, and that does not include at-home tests,” she said. She added the positivity rate decreased to 6% after Dec. 8, however, Trinity hospital in Ridgecrest “had 15 positive cases in a 12-hour window and the numbers in our region are continuously rising.”

Watson described the pace at which COVID-19 cases were occurring in the parish as “disturbing” and recommended the board take immediate action to protect students once they return to school. Under the current policy, students who have close contact with a suspected COVID-19 positive person have to quarantine for five days and test negative on day five before they return to school, Watson said.

The board opted to make masks optional during their November Board meeting, which would leave students vulnerable to COVID-19 exposure at school, she said.

“Our positivity rate is growing at an alarming speed in the parish. With no masks, that means we have to send our children home,” she said. “I’m making a recommendation to the board that for the next three weeks of school we put our masks back on to help ensure our students stay in school and, in addition to that, keep our children as safe as possible.”

None of the board members objected to Watson’s recommendation and a motion to resume mandatory mask wearing for three weeks passed by a vote of 8-0 with Nicky Pere’ absent.